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Monday, July 9, 2012

Purple Daze

There they were.  Gently tucked into an old cardboard box. Tiny baby eggplants, glistening and squirming under the hot morning sun. Dazed by their cheek-pinching cuteness, those petite purple aubergines charmed me into buying a few handfuls.

Bamboozled by a box of adorable baby eggplants.  Damn.

So, here's the deal. Slightly larger than my fingers and thumbs, they were  almost too tiny to cook.  What could I possible do with them? Fried fingerling eggplant parmesan? Small 4 ounce ramekins of baked  moussaka? Sauteed ratatouille for two?  I toyed with the notion of roasting them for a baba ghanoush amuse bouche.


Agrodolce is a sweet and sour sauce in Italian cuisine.
"Agro" (sour) and "Dolce" (sweet).

Caponata is a classic Sicilian dish that embraces the balance between  the harmonious opposites of agrodolce.

Caponata. "...a spread made of eggplants, celery, and tomatoes, sliced and fried in olive oil and flavored with capers and olives. The dish is served cold."


With a nod to Gastronmique and the many variations of caponata, I threw together a riff on the classic Sicilian dish.

It was quick, simple, and very forgiving.

Because the eggplants were small, I sliced them into rings (3 cups) before frying them in 1 cup of shimmering olive oil until they softened and were golden brown, about 10 minutes. After scooping them out with a slotted spoon, I tossed the caramelized rings into a bowl and set them aside. While the oil was still screaming hot, I sauteed a diced candy onion with 2 ribs of diced celery.

When the onions were beautifully caramelized, I deglazed the pan with 2 diced juicy  ripe garden tomatoes and let it rip until until the tomatoes thickened into a loose paste before adding 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup drained capers, 1 cup chopped green olives, salt, and cracked pepper.

After simmering the sauce for 15 minutes, I pulled the mix from the heat, tossed it with the reserved fried eggplant, added 1/2 cup slivered fresh basil, and slid the caponata into the refrigerator to chill.

Nestled atop crisp ciabatta crostinis, the soft caponata dripped with tart capers, briny olives, plumped golden raisins, sweet tomatoes, and earthy eggplants. While the sour and sweet agrodolce quietly napped the velvety caponata, perky fresh pea shoots popped, adding tiny bits of freshness.

Purple daze.


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